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Blog: One Member's Angry Outburst Isn't the Last Word

At a staff meeting a few months ago, we spent several minutes reading the positive feedback we had received in many of our new member surveys. We enjoyed sharing the comments about our "wonderful" staff, "friendly" environment and the impact we were having on people's lives. We wanted to remind our staff that while we spend a lot of time and energy dealing with problems - both real and perceived - the reality is that we have a pretty nice business with pretty nice members who appreciate what we do. Sometimes, we're even lucky enough to have someone remind us.

Last week started with a member cursing in our lobby. He was irrationally angry about an aquatics fitness class that interfered with his morning swim. With kids nearby, he used inappropriate words to describe our older members who were taking the class. One of our most experienced staff members, Paul, handled the situation well. Paul aggressively calmed the member down, took him aside and emphasized that such behavior and language were inappropriate. Paul showed the member our monthly pool calendar, which we created based on member feedback. When none of that helped and the member kept carrying on, Paul resisted the urge to both a) revoke his membership (which we would have supported) and b) pummel him.

Rob then had the pleasure of calling this fellow. The member acknowledged his behavior was inappropriate and that he likely owed Paul an apology. Rob explained that the pool was occasionally - though rarely - unavailable for lap swimming and that's why we publish a schedule. He suggested that one one-hour class, held two days per week, was an inconvenience to our lap swimmers that seemed less than egregious when the pool is available 16 other hours per day. The member grudgingly accepted this reality, and we practiced our deep breathing.

Which brings us to the end of last week. An older gentleman checked in with a big smile on his face. It was his first visit with us; he had joined the day before, and "the young man who I spoke with was so nice!" (That was Paul, too.) We chatted for a few minutes. Had he set up his initial appointments? Did he need any help?

He was on the schedule for a full fitness evaluation and initial workout next week, but could we get him started on the treadmill? That's all he wanted to do. He had forgotten his headphones for the TV, but that was OK. He'd bring them next time. He had an elegant accent that made everything he said sound even nicer. He didn't stop smiling.

When he was done with his brief session on the treadmill, he stayed to chat. He'd been unemployed for 17 months and hoped to get a job soon. He had seen our ad in his community newspaper (nice to know that someone joined because of that ad), and he came in because he wanted to do more than his daily walks. He couldn't believe how nice everyone was at our gym, and he was looking forward to coming back again soon.

What an enjoyable way to end the week! It was the same little reminder that we had given to our staff. Our staff is nice. We do help people. The "squeaky wheels" do cause us to lose focus on the people who appreciate what we do and how we do it. We do make a difference.

We'll enjoy that feeling…until the cursing starts again.

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